Don't let Keith's looks deceive you. He looks like a guy you wouldn't
want to mess with, but he is a gracious host when it comes to his work
as Trainmaster for the Blue Unit of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum
& Bailey Circus Train. Even though he had just arrived and unloaded
the 61-car train in Los Angeles late the night before. He took us
rail newbies through his Generator Car and Shop Car explaining every detail
and answering all our questions with a smile. We joked about his boyhood
state, Missouri, and mine, Indiana, and got along like a couple of high school
buddies. His has a job that few people could perform.
Basically he is the Landlord for 320 people (100 of them performers)
from 14 different countries who speak 10 different languages, plus a Trainmaster
for a passenger-frieght train over a mile long. He has to get power
(2 or 3 locomotives depending on the terrain to be covered) whenever they
jump to a new location. He has to keep the "Town Without a ZIP Code"
running safely both while traveling as well as when they are stable.
He lives on the train, so he is oncall 24/7.
Security is handled with 3 eight-hour shifts, around the clock. They
have to guard against tagging as well as help the 320 residents who might
lose their key to their accommodations and have to be let in late at night,
or hear about stopped up sinks, or air conditioning or cable TV that is
not working in the residential cars.
Keith has 13 crewmembers who help him accomplish his varied tasks. His
first activity upon arrival at a new city, starting at 6 a.m., is a preventive
maintenance safety inspection of the train. Often they will replace
brake shoes and tend to repairs in the private facilities.
Upon leaving a town, they do an air brake tests then load the wagons
and animals, which have been walked to the animal cars from the arena immediately
after the last show. It takes 8 to 10 hours to load the flat cars
with the wagons.
Animals are at the head of the train (see consist below) because it is
less bumpy there. As to animal care, each animal is tended to by
groomsmen who are responsible for watering and feeding them.
As to the families traveling on the train, they are taught by qualified
teachers in each town, or on the train. There is a nursery for smaller
children. The Ringmaster lives on the train with his wife and two children
and in his section of this report, he raves about seeing historic places
in the US rather than their just reading about them.
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